In order to tell stories, we need to hear stories. I want to hear yours.
A story came to me about three months ago and I’ve been in the initial stages of writing it since. What do the initial stages of writing a book look like for me? Thinking. Meeting my characters. Discovering how they react in different situations, what their childhood was like, what annoys them, what gives them joy and how their life experiences influence their behavior. In order to do this, I have to draw on real situations—from my life or by empathizing with others who share something in common with the character I’m creating.
In this specific story, I consider it imperative that I write about the experiences of my protagonists with compassion and empathy for people who have lived something similar. My protagonists are an immigrant woman from Spain who moves to New York and her three year old daughter, who grows up in Queens. I’ve got some experience with immigration, I’m a US citizen who’s been living in the South of Spain for seven years, but it’s not enough. I’ve experienced feelings of exclusion, of not identifying with my cultural stereotype, with not knowing exactly how to integrate and with language and communication frustrations.
But I’m aware that a US expat adapting to life in Europe is not the same challenge as anyone else from anywhere else integrating themselves into American society. The USA is a country built by immigrants, held together by immigrants and yet we somehow manages to devalue, discriminate against and ostracize them, especially in Trump’s America.
I want to hear your stories. I want to know what it was like to be a kid and have to translate legal documents for your parents, or to be the parent of a child who grew up in a culture that you don’t identify with. I’ve been hosting interviews with immigrants and children of immigrants, but I’d also like to open up the floor to anyone who wants to share. Below are the questions I’m interested in asking. Feel free to send me an email with your answers, or any anecdotes that you think will help me understand and empathize, again, with the goal always being compassion and respect. Thank you.
Where were you born, where do you live, and between which cultures do you experience a feeling of duality?
Do you feel more identified with one of those cultures? Why do you think that is?
Which elements of each culture that forms your identity do you feel are especially part of you? (Food, customs, language, behavior, communication styles, etc…)
Do you feel that you’ve experienced any hardships or difficulties that people who have been able to solidify their (cultural) identity haven’t had to face?
Could you share any situations or anecdotes where you felt ostracized because of your cultural background?
Could you share any situations of feeling misunderstood because of your cultural duality?
Do you feel any differently today than in the past about your relationship to your cultural identity?
Do you feel fully integrated in the culture of the country where you live? How about in the country where you’re from or where your parents are from?
Do you think there are advantages to having grown up with this duality (or spent a part of your life with this duality)?
Are you more comfortable communicating in a certain language? Are there specific things that you’re better at communicating in a certain language?
Do you feel differently when speaking either language?
Does the language you speak affect your communication style and/or relationship to your identity?